Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. will attend his first presidential debate: the one that will be hosted by SMNI, the official broadcasting arm of the embattled pastor Apollo Quiboloy who has supported his candidacy for president.

Marcos will join the debate, even though his spokesman earlier said that he would not join debates with other presidential candidates and only attend “presidential interviews.”

Quiboloy, who is on the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most wanted list, has endorsed the “UniTeam” tandem of Marcos and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, the daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, a close friend of the pastor.

Labor leader Ka Leody de Guzman is the only other presidential bet who has confirmed attendance to the debate.

De Guzman said he would attend the debate to lay down his platform, even if SMNI was Marcos’ “home court.”

“Bilang kandidato, obligasyon kong ilahad ang aking plataporma sa lahat ng botante. Kailangan nilang marinig ang lahat ng panig para sa kanilang mas maayos na pagpapasya sa Mayo,” he said.

Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso announced that they would not attend the SMNI debate scheduled for Feb. 15.

Robredo, according to her spokesman, is supposed to meet with leaders and supporters in Panay Island.

“She will be unable to attend this privately sponsored event but will definitely be present for all the upcoming Comelec-sponsored and accredited debates,” Robredo’s spokesman Barry Gutierrez said.

Lacson said that he would skip the debates “giving regard to common sense.”

“The network’s chairman, Pastor Quiboloy, has already openly endorsed his preferred presidential and vice presidential candidates,” Lacson said.

Pacquiao said he could not attend the SMNI debate “in good conscience” given Quiboloy’s wanted status.

“I cannot, in good conscience, be part of any activity organized by a man wanted for detestable crimes and who unconscionably used the name of the Lord in vain for religious scams,” the boxer-turned-politician said.

Domagoso will also not attend due to a conflict in schedule.

“He is not going to the SMNI debate. We are on a swing of the Samar provinces today and [tomorrow], returning on Wed the 16th,” Moreno’s campaign manager Lito Banayo said.

SMNI has yet to announce if lesser-known presidential candidates Ernie Abella, Norberto Gonzales, Faisal Mangondato and Jose Montemayor Jr. were invited to its debate program. John Ezekiel J. Hirro